|Photo credit: UN/Jean-Marc Ferré
|Marie-Paule Martinelli, Chairperson of Bazaar 2010 (in the centre) and Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG)
The year 2010 marked the 40th birthday of the
United Nations Women’s Guild (UNWG) of Geneva.
Inspired by the UNWG of New York, a few enthusiastic
women got together in 1970 to start a similar
voluntary association in Geneva. From an initial
membership of some 60 women, UNWG-Geneva has
grown to its present size of more than 500 members.
In the Guild, women from more than 100 countries
share opportunities for learning, self-improvement
and recreation. They also raise funds to help
finance projects around the world. In its 40 years of
existence, UNWG-Geneva has been able to finance
roughly 1600 projects in over 100 different countries,
at a cost of more than 6.7 million Swiss francs.
International friendship and understanding
The UNWG-Geneva is a place where international
friendship and understanding can grow. This is a
place where Guild members give their time and talent.
With monthly activities that include a book club,
a cinema club, organized cultural visits in Switzerland,
and coffee mornings hosted by various Permanent
Missions of UN Member States, Guild members can
have plenty of fun.
Helping the children of the world
Along with having fun, the Guild focuses on its
main objective — to allow the women of the world
to help the children of the world!
Women of all nationalities and cultural backgrounds
gather to raise funds in order to finance
important projects for needy and vulnerable children
in various developing countries of the world. All the
benefits from fundraising activities are entirely allocated
to finance small-scale projects.
Projects are submitted by Guild members with
first-hand knowledge of children’s needs in different
parts of the world. These Guild members identify
where the Guild’s action is most needed, and guarantee
the proper implementation of the projects that
the Guild supports financially. Letters received from
beneficiaries are often very moving.
The Guild’s support is traditionally oriented towards
education. For example, the Guild pays for
books, school uniforms, educational materials and
classroom equipment. There is also a focus on vocational
training for children and young women, to
provide them with income-generating skills. Other
forms of assistance include training for teachers and
students in fruit and vegetable gardening, so that the
produce can be used to prepare meals in the school’s
kitchen. The Guild is particularly attuned to the needs
of vulnerable groups and, for example, provides
hearing aids for deaf children, as well as paying for
the building and equipment of play areas for sick or
Investing in information technology
UNWG-Geneva recognizes the growing importance
of information technology in daily life, and finances the purchase of necessary equipment in various
regions of the world, most commonly for schools
or local nongovernmental organizations. The direct
beneficiaries of the Guild’s help in the field of technology
are children. In the past two years, approximately
10 per cent of the Guild’s total project funding
has been directed to information technology.
The Guild is asked to finance not only the purchase
of computers or laptops, printers and computer
furniture, but also DVD players, liquid-crystal
display (or LCD) projectors, screens, televisions, amplifiers, microphones, special keyboards and special
software (for example, Braille). There is also the financing of workshops focused on basic training in
various text processing and Internet applications.
The Guild pays particular attention to projects
designed to help children living in slums, street children,
orphans and children living in rural areas. The
Guild provides these children with first-time access
to information technology education, thus redressing
the inequality between those who have access to
computers and the Internet in their homes, and those
who cannot afford such access. Watching cultural
and educational films not only helps children to learn
and enlarge their vision, but also offers benefits to
entire villages in the remote areas where the schools
that are helped by the Guild are located.
The annual bazaar and other special events
In order to finance its projects, Guild members
organize various fund-raising events. Perhaps the
best known is the UNWG Annual Bazaar — one of
Geneva’s most Colourful events, which traditionally
takes place in November in the Palais des Nations.
International handicraft stalls and food stalls sell their
products to a large mixed crowd of locals and expats.
This is a genuinely multicultural event, where a cheerful
crowd of people are happy to be together and
celebrate their differences. They are also united by
the noble idea of raising funds for children in need.
The Children’s Walk is another of the Guild’s
special events. This walk raises awareness among
children that not all the world is a happy place like
Geneva, but that we can make a difference by working
together. The Guild’s special events programme
also includes art exhibitions and cultural evenings.
A warm welcome
Guild membership is open to any woman officially
connected by work or relationship with the UN, the
specialized agencies, the permanent missions to the
United Nations, or any of the intergovernmental organizations
with headquarters in Geneva. The Guild
warmly welcomes new members, especially those
who have recently arrived in Geneva.
Contributed by the United Nations Women’s Guild of Geneva